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13 days ago

The ups and downs of Mugello

Hard swings in all three classes after the closest weekend in Grand Prix history, tragedy hitting a number of hopeful riders.

Sunday’s MotoGP™ World Championship race was dominated by two stories, two very contrasting stories.

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Epic duel under the Tuscan sun

The highlight of the weekend was undoubtedly Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez’s incredible last lap battle. In 2015 the top two riders were separated by 0.249s at the line after the thrilling 27-lap Australian GP, a race which was widely regarded as the best of the four-stroke era. Sunday’s battle in Mugello certainly has the elements needed to challenge it for the crown or at least cause a healthy debate as to which is best. Marquez and Lorenzo aren’t strangers to duelling it out on the last lap, Mugello was simply their most recent battle down to the wire. It’s hard to forget the British GP in 2013 when they were split by only 0.081s at the line after 20 laps. In fact, the 0.019s which split Lorenzo from Marquez as they ran across the line was the closest premier class finish since Casey Stoner beat Ben Spies to the line in Valencia by 0.015s in 2011. Stoner won the title that year and described it as the hardest he had to push all year.

Both Marquez and Lorenzo pulled out all the stops in their battle for victory, Lorenzo remembering a move he made on Alex De Angelis back in 2005 in the 250cc class to try and best Marquez before the line. The move stuck back in 2005, but didn’t quite work out the same way 11 years later, the race coming down to a photo finish. It’s testament to how hard Marquez was riding that Lorenzo had to recall his hyper-aggressive, often criticised, 250 days. It was the old Marquez out on track, in Jerez Marquez appeared more mature than in 2015, happily settling in and taking valuable championship points. There were no signs of that Marquez in Italy, the Spaniard on the limit at every corner in the final laps, bending his RC213V into demented shapes through San Donato. All he wanted was victory, his front wheel ahead of Lorenzo’s front wheel at the line the only thing he cared about in the world. Sadly it wasn’t to be as Lorenzo’s drive proved superior, a Yamaha beating a Honda in a drag race from the first time in recent memory. It may have been a disappointing day for Marquez, but it showed the fire is still very much burning deep down inside, just waiting for a chance to come out. The Honda might still have issues, but Marquez certainly doesn’t.

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Disaster and disappointment for Rossi

The other story of the day was Valentino Rossi’s heart-breaking end to the Italian GP. All the parts seemed to have fallen into place for ‘The Doctor’, he was back on pole for the first time since he last won in Mugello and had made an incredible start to the race. He was right with his teammate as they worked their way around the track; launching the occasional attack to make sure Lorenzo knew he was there, waiting. Closer he got, a move for the lead was surely coming before disaster hit. On lap nine Rossi’s beloved M1 encountered a technical problem and, much like Lorenzo’s bike in Warm Up, billowed smoke as he slowly rolled off to the side of the track. There was no hiding his disappointment as Rossi rested his head on the tank with smoke filling the air behind him. Yamaha are yet to find the cause of Lorenzo and Rossi’s issues but no doubt it will be a priority ahead of the Catalan GP, engine failures hardly seen in MotoGP™ anymore and almost never two on the same day from the same team.

Now 37 points behind Lorenzo and 27 back on Marquez, there’s significant work for Rossi to do in the remaining 12 races of the year. Rossi has only once won the premier class title with two DNFs: in 2004 when he bested Sete Gibernau and Max Biaggi.

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2016 Italian Grand Prix: MotoGP™ Full Race

It was a hectic day for the intermediate class championship with multiple race restarts before the eventual ten lap dash.

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Highlights: Zarco takes second win of season in Moto2™

When racing re-commenced fans were treated to a thriller, the Moto2™ World Championship producing the sort of action the class was first known for. Out the front Lorenzo Baldassarri and Johann Zarco threw everything they had at each other, Baldassarri with nothing to lose and Zarco desperate to make amends for the sins of Le Mans. They say rubbing is racing and the two certainly submitted some solid evidence to support the claim. As in all three classes it was all decided in the run to the line, neither able to gain a clear advantage before.

As thrilling as the race itself was, its impact on the championship standings is what was really felt. With Zarco winning, Lowes third, Luthi fourth and Rins seventh after starting from the back, the Moto2™ World Championship is now the tightest of any class. Lowes leads with 98 points, only two clear of Rins as their positions continue to shuffle back and forth with each weekend. Not only are the top two almost inseparable, but all of the leading fourth are within 17 points. With all four of the riders having taken at least one victory in 2016, anything could still happen.

Brad Binder came out on top once again, his third win coming from another radically different race.

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Highlights: Binder wins Moto3™ thriller

Moto3™ races are always thrilling, the recipe of 33 young, talented and hungry riders on fairly evenly matched single cylinder 250cc machines one that’s hard to beat. Add Mugello, one of the most spectacular circuits on the World Championship calendar, into the mix and you’ve got 20 riders locked together and battling for victory. Positions changed at every corner and riders regularly went from first to fifth into San Donato, a number of news names throwing their hat into the ring. But once again it was Brad Binder who came out on top, the South African calling on his experience to snag a hat trick of wins and move ahead as the clear title favourite.

With Romano Fenati and Jorge Navarro both failing to score, Binder leaves Mugello with 127 points and a 49-point lead. After six races in 2015, Danny Kent had 124 points and a 46-point lead over his nearest title rival Enea Bastianini. Kent would go on to take the title and right now it seems almost impossible to look past Binder doing the same. On Friday Binder stated his desire to win every race left in the season, a goal that after Mugello doesn’t seem too extreme. All three of Binder’s victories have come from very different races, demonstrating he can win from the back, win from the front and win in an all out brawl.